FFRF awards $11,200 to 2017 essay contest for college students

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is proud to announce the 18 winners of the 2017 Michael Hakeem Memorial College Essay Contest.

College students were asked to write a personal persuasive essay about why their morality does not come from religion or God.

After carefully reviewing more than 160 essays, FFRF awarded seven top prizes and 11 honorable mentions.

Listed below are the winners, the college or university they are attending and the award amount. FFRF has paid out a total of $11,200 in award money for the contest this year.

First place
Max Stinson, University of South Carolina Upstate ($3,000)

Second place
Jacey Anderson, Washington State University ($2,000)

Third place
Jamie Moffa, Washington University School of Medicine ($1,000)

Fourth place (tie)
Gabrielle Goldworm, Seton Hall University ($750)

Fourth place (tie)
Hampton Gibson, University of Oklahoma ($750)

Fifth place
Violet Richardson, University of Wisconsin ($500)

Sixth place
Kaylee Payne, University of Virginia’s College at Wise ($400)

Honorable mentions ($200 each)

  • Christopher Bednarcik, North Central College
  • Michael Brown, Dartmouth College
  • Catherine Evans, James Madison University
  • Nicholas Giurleo, Tufts University
  • Jordan Green, University of Arizona
  • Melissa Juarez, University of California-Fresno
  • Anne Mickey, Arizona State University
  • Chenoa Off, Russell Sage College
  • Mackenzie Schneider, Smith College
  • Omolola Smith, University of Vermont
  • Katelynn Thompson, University of Georgia

The college contest is named for the late Michael Hakeem, a sociology professor who was an FFRF board chair and active atheist known by generations of University of Wisconsin-Madison students for fine-tuning their reasoning skills.

FFRF thanks Dean and Dorea Schramm of Florida for providing a$100 bonus to students who are members of a secular student club or the Secular Student Alliance. The total of $11,200 reflects those bonuses.

FFRF has offered essay competitions to college students since 1979, high school students since 1994 and graduate students since 2010, and this year made permanent a contest directed specifically to freethinking students of color.

In the September issue, FFRF announced the 17 winners of the William Schultz High School Essay Contest and the $10,150 it awarded to those students. In the August issue, FFRF announced the 14 winners of the David Hudak Memorial High School Contest for Students of Color and the $10,050 it awarded to those students. The graduate student essay winners will be announced in the November issue.

Freedom From Religion Foundation